Former Federal Official Sentenced To 21 Months In Prison For Self-Dealing Federal Grants To New Jersey Universities
TRENTON, N.J. – The former assistant division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), New Jersey Division, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for using a straw company to fraudulently obtain grant funds, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Lawrence F. Cullari Jr., 43, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan to an information charging him with one count of mail fraud. Judge Sheridan imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Cullari was the assistant division administrator at the FHWA’s New Jersey Division from 2010 through July 2013 and was able to influence the allocation of U.S. Department of Transportation funding. He also operated a private consulting and engineering company called Dencore Consulting, which was owned by his ex-wife. His former father-in-law owned and operated “Company 1,” an engineering company located in Middletown, New Jersey, that provided mechanical, plumbing and electrical designs for commercial and residential projects.
Cullari admitted that in 2006, he and his father-in-law agreed to use Company 1 as a straw contractor to get FHWA-funded work for Dencore Consulting from Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (Rutgers CAIT) and the N.J. Institute of Technology (NJIT). From May 2006 through June 2013, Cullari prepared bids and work proposals for Company 1 to sign and submit to Rutgers CAIT and NJIT. When Rutgers CAIT or NJIT awarded the projects to Company 1, Cullari arranged for the completion of engineering reports and invoices that fraudulently stated that Company 1 completed the work. After Rutgers CAIT or NJIT paid Company 1, its owner kept a small portion of the payment and wrote a check to Dencore Consulting for the remaining balance.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Cullari to three years of supervised release and fined him $20,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Regional Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, and the N.J. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott B. McBride, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense counsel: Bradley L. Henry Esq., New York